Posts from the ‘memoir’ Category

Living with Diabetes

Last April I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2. I had been losing weight without changing my eating patterns. I’m very over weight, but not obese. I used to keep my weight off by exercising and taking long walks every day.  Then post-polio syndrome kicked in and I was unable to walk easily. less then five minutes of walking puts me into so much pain that I become nauseous from it.

I was never a big eater or a regular eater. I ate erratically, some times going all day without eating and then over eating the next day when my appetite returned.  I still have issues with food. Sometimes I have to force myself to eat.  Once or twice a year I’ll go four or five days without eating and then have to acclimate myself to food again.

In addition to the polio, I have PTSD (that has been discussed before in this blog). I think that there is a stress component to the periods in which I can’t eat.

However, once I could no longer exercise (I require a wheelchair to shop),  I put on ten pounds a year until I weighed 200 pounds.  I’m only five feet tall and that makes me a real tubby.  I have lost a lot of it since the diabetes arrived, mostly by changes in what I eat.  The hardest part of the diet is that I am supposed to eat three regular meals and three snacks. I take my glucose levels three times a day and I take metformin HCL.

I am still forgetting to eat some days, but I have begun using glasses of vegetable juice and sugar free fruit beverages that I create in my blender for the days I can’t bring myself to eat.  Regularity, as much as i can manage it, has curbed the binges.  My glucose levels are staying in the low normal range. I’m also making pots of soup and stews that are low carb.

I don’t miss the sweets. I have never been a big sweet eater, not even as a child. What I do miss is the pasta and potatoes that were the mainstay of my previous diet.

I am finding that the diabetes is manageable.  I had fish and fruit for lunch. In two hours, I’ll have half a banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter that contains no sugar. Reading the labels is a necessity. I was shocked at how much of our food contains high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar.

The older we get, the more physical issues we develop. I’m 58.  That means that they are piling up on me.

I was eight years old when I contracted polio, so I have very few memories of what it was like to be normal. In a sense, that is a good thing under the circumstances because I am very familiar with how to strategize around difficulties.  Over the years, I have seen how much harder it is for an adult to adapt to physical challenges after an illness or accident that disables them. They seem to be far less ready to cope than those who were disabled as children.


Bashing the Virgin Mary

I hate it when I go through a fresh episode of flashbacks.  It knocks me flat for days.

I just spent a week playing warcraft obsessively trying to run from it.

Two weeks ago I moved my computer from the smaller desk to the larger one.  That was a nice change as I have more space now.  However, I did not get around to shifting a lot of stuff that was in the niches on it.

One of those was a tiny shrine to the mother goddess.  The centerpiece is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child and raising one hand in benediction.

I shifted the shrine to my third desk, and as I put my hand on the statue, I got hit by the intensity of my memories.

No one I have ever known was as capable of rage as H.  He would be literally frothing at the mouth.  I always felt as if I had been in the solar plexus whenever he went into one of these rages. My mind would go blank and stunned, unable to react.  The verbal abuse was always aimed with the precision of a SWAT team sniper.  He knew where to hit me and he did so.

One day, out of the blue, as I was cleaning house, H caught me in the hallway and forced me against the wall to inform me that I was evil and the goddess did not listen to evil people.  He said she had forsaken me.

Then he went in and smashed my shrine to the goddess, breaking the statue (which I have since replaced) of Mary.  He used a brick.

Sovay was eight.

She came in to see what was going on and was there when he smashed all the delicate statues on my altar.  The one that hurt her most was that statue. She burst into tears.

You see, she used to say to me while looking at the statue, “That’s like you and me, Mom.  That’s how much you love me.”

And I always hugged her and told her, “Yes, just like you and me.”

Clearly the statue had come to symbolize our deep bond to her.

I felt as if my heart had been raped by the destruction.  Sovay stopped talking to her father for several days, except for single syllable answers to questions.

The first thing I did when we escaped from him was to replace the statue.

The old adage that “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is wrong

Broken hearts  hurt far longer than broken bones.

Flashing Swords Magazine

Flashing Swords Magazine has a new editor: D. K. “Dianna” Wagner.

When Sovay was 11, I divorced her father, accepted welfare, and went back to college.  A lot of the people who I had been selling articles to refused to buy anything from me, yet continued to buy from Hank/Jean.  Their explanation was “I don’t wish to take sides.”

Oh, right.  Dumping me but not him was not taking sides.  Ayup, this does look fair to me.

Anyway, I returned to college, attending Mt. San Jacinto JC.  I carried my book of clips with me to my first meeting with my adviser.  It’s a 3 inch binder.  When he saw it, he suggested (more like insisted) that I volunteer to work on the college newspaper (It started out volunteer, but was made into a credit class that semester).

The editor was an opinionated, loud-mouthed, hyper-enthusiatic woman a few years younger than I was.  She knew how to bring out the best in people and was fearless in going to the defense of her staff and friends.

Physically she reminded me a lot of the gal who played Scully in X-Files.

I had lost my self-confidence as a writer and was just coming out of a fifteen year writer’s block where it came to fiction.  To her I was Jan Frank, nobody, and yet she immediately latched onto me as her prime example of how to be a good journalist.  She took me under her wing as her protege.

Within a couple of weeks I was so embarassed by her praise and attention that I did not have the heart to tell her that I was a pro who wrote under a contraction of my real name.  I tried several times to muster up the courage to tell her the truth, and then I simply could not do it.

She had an assistant editor named Karen, who had grown up on the wrong streets just as I had.  Karen was fiesty, sometimes raunchy and crude, and always blunt.  I once saw this petite woman hit a guy who got out of line so hard she knocked him out.  She was a classic lower class woman with an attitude and a brilliant mind.

Almost as brilliant as Dianna.

At the end of the school year, I handed Karen my resume and fled.

Sovay attended school with Dianna’s two kids, Aaron and April.  Throughout that year they were over at my home as much as they were their own.  We lived only a few blocks from each other in a shabby neighborhood.  Many of us were welfare mothers, single parents, who had gone back to school to get the training that would provide us and our children with a better life.

I had not been home five minutes before Dianna arrived brandishing that resume.

That was 1995.  We’ve been friends ever since.  She now has a grandchild and another on the way.

Dianna was the inspiration for the Goddess of Cussedness and Perversity, Dynanna, in my novels.  Dynanna is one of my best loved characters. If you want to know what Dianna is all about, then read the sections of my books about Dynanna.

“Funsies” is the Goddess’s favorite praise.

She’s an amazing person and a fine editor.  We are a lot older now, but to me, Dianna will always be the Goddess.

Scared Sober

Mama always had a lot of interesting stories to tell.  None of the women in my family were heavy drinkers.  Most, in fact, did not drink at all.    Papa was a weekend alcoholic.  So were most of his friends.

By the time that I was five, I had gotten into the habit of greeting Papa’s friends with, “Get lost, you’re drunk.”

Two of Mama’s favorite tales of our alcoholic menfolk concerned how they were scared sober.

One of them, Charles, passed out drunk next to a Mobile Oil gas station in the 1940s.  You have to picture the dusty Texas towns, weedy lots scattered everywhere and clumps of grass browned by the summer heat, thrusting their spiky spears up through cracks in the pavement.

Mobile’s sign was that of the bright red flying horse.  Mama and his wife had gone looking for him.  They found Charles passed out under the sign.  Mama was in favor of kicking him, but his wife argued her out of it, knelt and gave Charles a shake.  He came spluttering awake and then let out a loud shriek of panic, pointing at the sign while caught in the mists of alcohol and probably a case of delirium tremins.

“The devil’s come to get me!  He’s come to get me on a red horse.”

Charles remained convinced for the rest of his days that if he got drunk again, the devil on a flying red horse was going to come collect him.

The other story was one that Mama heard as a young girl.  Her mother, who we called Mammy, had an Aunt Mary.  Mary’s husband was a very nice man when he was sober, and a very bad man when he was drunk.  Once he would start drinking, he would beat Mary and their children.

One day, Mary and her husband came to visit Mammy.  He had his arm in a cast.   Mama asked what happened, but the adults were reluctant to explain it.  His arm healed up and soon he was back to drinking and bashing the family.  That went on for a few more weeks, and he showed up at their home one day with the opposite arm broken.

That’s when the truth came out.  Mary had gotten tired of being beaten.  Back then, divorces were very hard to get and no one, not even the law, offered help to abused women.  Mary had waited until he was passed out drunk, put a chair beside the bed, laid his arm across it and applied some cast iron diplomacy to his elbow.  After the second broken arm, Mary’s husband stopped drinking, fearful that what she broke next would be of far more intimate usage.

Extended family

My extended family was huge without ever associating with my father’s side of the family.  Mama (grandmother)  had nine brothers.  For some reason when I get to Papa, I have to stop and count, because I always miss one.  Papa had six brothers and three sisters.  Big families were the norm in their generation.  That’s just the number that survived into adulthood.  When they were kids, all those diseases were running around that some folks want to tell you not to vaccinate your children for; otherwise Mama would have had four more reach adulthood, and Papa would have had one more.  All of their siblings had children and some  had grand children.  We had a small tribe of relatives really.  And at family reunions, which were held yearly, there were enough of us to take up most of a small city park.

Read more…

Tolerance challenged.

I have to admit that I suffer from a bit of prejudice against Islam.  It is not connected to 9/11.  It got its start in 1976.  I had a favorite older cousin, named JoAnn, whom we called just Ann.  She worked for the Foriegn Service and spent several years in Pakistan attached to the US Embassy in Karachi.  Ann was sweet and a bit crazy (pleasantly so) and I adored her.

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Jack Benny Corrupted My Kid

Sovay learned to count by watching Sesame Street.  However, she never did things according to the rules.  She refused to count for me so that i could tell how much she knew.  When I would coax her to count for me, Sovay would throw random numbers at me until I became frustrated and walked off.  I would be doing dishes and she would creep up behind me and count perfectly, but the minute I turned around and looked at her it was back to the random numbers gig.

In an effort to get her motivated into counting for me, I gave her an allowance in pennies starting when she was four and making her count the pennies for me.  If she could not or would not count the pennies, I refused to give them to her.  Then when she had enough pennies to spend on a toy, I took her shopping.

The system worked fine.  Eventually I was giving her nickels, and then dimes, quarters, and finally I changed them into dollars by the time that she was seven.

When she was five, I went to work fulltime.

A local classics station started running Jack Benny movies and tv reruns.  Jack Benny seemed to be a harmless enough show that I did not mind her watching them while I was busy.  Sovay adored Jack Benny.

When she turned seven, I told her, “Sovay, you’re too big to spank now.  If you misbehave, I’ll take it out of your allowance.”

Her reply was “I’m thinking.  I’m thinking.”

I had a delicate crystal prism on a shelf.  I was forever having to take it away from her.  One day I noticed there were pieces missing from the prism.  I knew immediately that Sovay must have gotten it and dropped it.

“Sovay, you broke my prism.  I’m going to take it out of your allowance.”

She immediately shrieked as if mortally wounded.  “Spank me, Mom.  Spank me, but don’t take my money.”